The African Development Bank on Tuesday announced the cancellation of Zimbabwe’s 601million dollar debt arrears.

ADB representative, Sibry Tapsoba, said in Harare that the move was aimed at helping the country emerge from a long economic crisis.

“We want to assure Zimbabwe of the commitment of the African Development Bank to the country in clearing its arrears.

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“The institution will set aside funds for the purpose,’’ he said.

He said Zimbabwe was owing the ADB, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other foreign creditors over 10 billion dollars.

“International institutions stopped lending to Zimbabwe after it started defaulting 15 years ago.

“At that time, the expulsion of white farmers contributed to a decade-long crisis that turned the country formerly known as southern Africa’s bread basket into a net importer of food.

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“Massive inflation forced Zimbabwe to abandon its currency for the US dollar in 2009,’’ he said.

After a rebound between 2009 and 2012 with average growth rates of nearly 9 per cent, growth has again slowed to an expected 1.5 per cent in 2015.

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The representative noted that Western sanctions over human rights violations have long soured relations.

He said President Robert Mugabe had now softened his anti-Western rhetoric, saying he hoped to get assistance from the World Bank and IMF.

Tapsoba said he hoped the ADB’s move would “unlock’’ international confidence in Zimbabwe.